Here's my JET essay. Be warned: it's super cheesy, so if you feel compelled to roll your eyes, I'll understand.
Of Language and Learning: Teaching English in the Land of the Rising Sun
Language. It is a sign of who we are and where we come from. As language defines us, so does it unite us, but it can also impose barriers that drive us apart. As our society aggressively pursues globalization, individuals who maintain cultural sensitivity and strive for effective communication despite language barriers will be an increasingly important commodity; individuals who can also pass the gift of adept communication to others will be invaluable. On the eve of my college graduation, the culmination of four years' immersion in language and communication and the beginning of a lifetime of educating others in these disciplines, I feel increasingly the weight of this responsibility, yet I cannot imagine a more exciting and satisfying pursuit. As I prepare to test my skills as an Assistant Language Teacher in Japan, I am confident that my background and experience have equipped me to face and ultimately overcome the challenges and demands of the position, not only those imposed on all teaching assistants, but also those facing any foreigner living and working in a culture so different from their own.
My three years as a Writing Consultant at Rollins College have been a glowing highlight of my academic career. In this position, I've had ample opportunity to work with undergraduate and graduate students from all disciplines. Notably, I have worked closely with many students who speak English as a second language, and this has been the most challenging and the most rewarding part of my job. Several students have worked with me on a consistent basis, and it's a great accomplishment to see their vocabulary improve through repeated contact with a peer, from whom they discover new words and phrases to better express their ideas. When I help them combine their accumulated knowledge of English grammar and sentence structure with these elements, the results are truly remarkable. My familiarity with the specific nuances of the English language that native Japanese speakers often struggle with, in conjunction with my people skills and cultural sensitivity, will exemplify me as a dependable, approachable source of information and allow me to achieve maximum results in the Japanese classroom.
My academic success at Rollins College, particularly in my English major, has led to a unique and exciting opportunity; I currently serve as a Teaching Assistant in a freshman composition class under Dr. Lezlie Laws. In this position, I work closely with each student, both in the classroom and individually in the Rollins Writing Center. At the Writing Center, my contact with a paper usually ends when the session is over, but as a Teaching Assistant, my impact goes beyond a specific assignment and I witness my students' educational development in the classroom. These experiences have cemented my decision to pursue a career in language instruction, for I believe that a strong foundation in written and oral communication is essential for educational success in all disciplines and, transcending the classroom, essential to success in the workforce. Thus, as an ALT in a Japanese classroom, I will be equipped to tread the fine line between peer and authority figure, to assess my responsibilities both as an instructor and as a subordinate, and adapt my strategies in the dynamic classroom environment.
Although my professional vision dictates that any experience in the classroom would cultivate my passion for education, deciding to work specifically in Japan was a natural result of my equally unrelenting passion for cultural studies. Not only have I formally studied two foreign languages, but as an undergraduate, I devoted a spring break to sampling theatre, literature, and the arts in England; worked extra shifts at the Writing Center to spend fall break in Mexico; spent three weeks of summer vacation engrossed in the history and social philosophy of China; and finally, this semester's yoga and meditation classes will culminate in a trip to study religion and philosophy in India during Christmas break. These sporadic samplings have left me yearning to completely immerse myself in a foreign country, absorbing its culture as a citizen and not merely a visitor. Knowing that a reputable organization like JET will support me both in the United States and Japan will allow me to approach every fascinating, baffling, frustrating, amazing, and unequivocally exciting experience in Japan with the same fervor and clarity I employ in every facet of my education—and my life. I realize that the road ahead is full of challenges, but with more determination and ambition I have ever known, I am ready.